No solutions in sight as Dallas' homeless problem continues to grow

As the number of people sleeping outside on Dallas city streets has skyrocketed, the city's search for a location to house the homeless appears to be at a standstill.

Councilmembers asked city staff to examine seven locations to see if they could be future sites for homeless assistance centers. They concluded that none of the locations are feasible.

Signs of the city's growing homeless population are everywhere. Encampments litter the city, like the one under I-45 next to Deep Ellum.

When the city clears out homeless encampments, new ones pop up in other places.

Daniel Roby is the executive director for the Austin Street Shelter.

“It is always heartbreaking when anyone has no opportunity for shelter and has to sleep outside,” he said. “It’s not safe. Seventy-eight percent of women who are homeless have been physically or sexually victimized.”

Dallas city Councilman Philip Kingston says something has to be done.

“We are having a spike in homelessness that is overwhelming the assets we have downtown,” he said. "We need to have a strategy so the rest of the city can bear some of the burden that right now only affects the core."

The last count of the homeless population showed the number of people living on the street is up 23 percent compared with last year.

But after city staff looked at seven different locations suggested by councilmembers, ranging from the old Dawson State Jail, the former Timberlawn Psychiatric Hospital, a motel, or the old Parkland Hospital. The assistant city manager wrote: "staff does not recommend the suggested sites."

“The memo to me when you read it as a whole appears to be staff saying they don't want to do a homeless assistance center,” Kingston said. “They have actual misstatements.  They claim Dawson State Jail is a mile from public transit when there are bus lines that run right in front of it.”

The memo does not offer any additional locations that could work and there are no dates for any future discussions.

“I don't want staff to tell me what I can't do. I'm already really aware of that,” Kingston said. “I want staff to tell me what I can do.”

What council is looking to create is different from the bridge. Kingston wants a location where people can be sheltered with their loved ones and pets. Those are barriers that keep some people from utilizing shelters now.

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